The Palau Conservation Society (PCS), in consultation with residents of Kayangel, has proposed to assess the feasibility, and where appropriate, eradicate a range of invasive species from the islands of Kayangel Atoll. This proposal has been approved as a PII-supported Demonstration Project with funding secured through Conservation International's Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF), with funds originally from the Australian Government's Regional Natural Heritage Programme (RNHP). As part of the PII project development process, a feasibility study is being undertaken to determine whether eradicating rats (in the first instance) is achievable. The feasibility study involves raising community awareness on the impact of invasive species, building support for the project, evaluating the feasibility of the project (including protecting non-target species) and identifying ways for the community to become involved. A feasibility team lead by PCS visited Kayangel on the 1st and 2nd of June 2006. If the feasibility report, expected by 30 June 2006, concludes that eradication is possible, funds will be sought to support the writing of a comprehensive operation plan and for the subsequent eradication.
Kayangel (112ha) and the atolls three other islets, Ngerlungs (33.8ha), Ngerebelas (8.6ha) and Orak (1.7ha) are located in the Republic of Palau (Micronesia) in the western Pacific. Of the four islets only one is inhabited. The main threats to terrestrial biodiversity on the islands come from invasive species. Target species for eradication include Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus), ship rats (Rattus rattus), cats (Felis catus) and mice (Mus musculus), while other invasives such as dogs, fruit flies, monitor lizards, cane toads and Rhinoceros beetles also inhabit the atoll. Rats are known to affect community health in Palau by acting as disease vectors, exposing citizens to gastrointestinal illnesses and leptospirosis through water supplies. Consequently, there is concern that Kayangel residents will also face these health issues if rats are not removed. Already rats are impacting on the community’s economic health by damaging crops such as papaya and corn.
Kayangel Atoll has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International (2006). The atoll is home to Palau’s largest and most dense population of the Endangered (IUCN Red List, 2004) Micronesian megapode (Megapodius laperouse). This ground bird is particularly vulnerable to introduced predators such as rats and cats. Relief from rat and cat predation is expected to increase the breeding success of this species. Other species that reside or use the island are the Marianas flying fox (Pteropus mariannus) and green and hawksbill turtles (Chelonia mydas and Eretmochelys imbricata, respectively). The larger invasive mammals, such as cats and dogs, are likely to be predators not only of birds but also of the lizards and turtles occupying the atoll.
This proposal to eradicate invasive species from Kayangel Atoll has been developed with support from a range of agencies including: BirdLife International (Pacific Regional Secretariat), Kayangel State Government, Division of Environmental Health and Sanitation, Ministry of Health, Division of Forestry, Ministry of Resources and Development, Environmental Quality Protection Board, National Environmental Protection Council, Helen Reef Project, United States Fish & Wildlife Service, Island Conservation, Centre for Conservation Research & Training, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society and the Pacific Invasives Initiative.
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